NDKs lined up on Kayak Beach

Thoughts on Fitting, Demoing and Choosing a Sea Kayak

by Tom Bergh of Maine Island Kayak Co, Peaks Island, Maine

Sea kayak designs abound in our world. The following thoughts are offered to assist you in evaluating any kayak you paddle. With so many designs and models to choose from, which kayak is “the best”? It’s my hope to help you plot a positive and useful course through this exercise.

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Custom Foam Fitting a Sea Kayak

Contact with our boat breeds confidence in conditions. Proper kayak fit is integral to its performance - and your enjoyment - on the water. While there are many kayak models to choose from, fit can almost always be fine-tuned and improved with the addition of custom cut minicell (closed cell) foam.

The following are basic instructions for how we custom foam fit our NDKs at Maine Island Kayak Co:

Thigh Foam

Make a cardboard template for the thigh area. Cut the foam to the template size using a bandsaw or knife. Always cut bigger rather than smaller, as you'll be taking away material as you shape the piece.

Rough shape the pieces with a knife. Use a rasp to further shape and smooth the contours.

The following are a couple of examples of how you could shape your thigh foam:

These pieces have a significant "hook" to hold the paddler's knee securely, especially useful when rolling and bracing.

Thigh pieces rough cut (l) and partially shaped (r).

This thigh pad has ridges on both sides, which holds the paddlers knee in position. You can carve out "pockets" to cup the knee cap. This can be done on both sides of the foam piece.

Thigh pad with inside leg hook and knee pocket marked.

Reverse side of thigh foam shaped at knee pocket.

Hip Pads

We prefer to replace stock hip pads with custom pads that extend all the way to the underside of the cockpit rim.

Stock and custom hip pads.

Hip pad contour.


We use contact cement from to glue the foam pieces in place. (Weldwood is one brand.) Lightly sand the inside of the kayak where glue is to be applied. Rough up and score the back of the foam pieces. Apply several layers of cement to both the foam and the inside of the kayak. Use clamps to hold the pieces in place until the cement is fully dry.

Wildwood Contact Cement

Securing foam in place after glueing.

Also see our article Tweaks and Tunes for Your Kayak for additional tips on how to make your boat perform better for you.

Cale Circumnavigates Lake Superior

Meet Cale...

May 9, 2024

Hello, my name is Cale Prosen, and I plan to circumnavigate Lake Superior in my kayak this summer. I am 20 and have just finished up my sophomore year of college at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. Proudly from Cloquet, MN which is near Duluth, and spent much time in the outdoors in various pursuits. I am majoring in biology, chemistry, and secondary science education and would like to tie these together somehow.

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Penrhyn Mawr

Swell, Wind Waves, Tides and the Effects of Landforms

Presentation by Tom Bergh for


Sea kayaking places us directly within two primary and unusual marine energy systems. Tides and their resulting currents, and ocean swell with their long periods.

Swells are moving hills of heavy, dense energy with often dramatic effects on the surface topography of the sea. Swells can intensify forces in the coastal zone, and often push Paddlers into heightened Fun or Fear dimensions.

Wind, above all environmental variables, has the greatest daily impact on most sea paddlers. So predicting wind speed, its direction, and understanding its impact on the texture of the sea, is essential to your seamanship skills. Winds are the movement of air caused by differences in temperature and pressure.

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Sea kayakers using Celtic Omega blades in the surf

Celtic Omega Blades

Celtic's Omega blade strikes an impressive balance in blade design. The dihedral shape allows for a comfortable, lower angle touring stroke, but is ready for quick and decisive maneuvering.

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